Start-up by CityU alumnus recognised by the Ministry of Science and Technology as a “unicorn”


Dr Huang (right), CityU alumnus and founder and CEO of Orbbec, with Professor Lu Jian, CityU Vice-President (Research and Technology), at a recent event.


A high-tech enterprise specialising in 3D sensing technology founded by an alumnus of City University of Hong Kong (CityU), was included earlier this year in the 2017 China Unicorn Enterprise Development Report compiled by the Ministry of Science and Technology.

Founded by Dr Howard Huang Yuanhao, Orbbec Co. Ltd has become one of the leading providers of 3D sensing solutions in the world in just a few years. It is regarded as a “unicorn enterprise,” which refers to start-ups with a valuation of more than US$1 billion. 

The company was established in 2013 by Dr Huang, who is currently the CEO; Dr Brad Liu Long, another CityU alumnus and currently the Lead Optoelectronic Engineer; and other computing and engineering experts. The only company in China capable of mass production of 3D sensors for consumers, Orbbec is a high-tech enterprise that integrates development, production and sales of 3D sensing devices. 

3D sensing technology has a wide range of applications in various industries, including the popular face-recognition system used on mobile phones. 

Dr Huang completed his PhD in CityU’s Department of Manufacturing Engineering and Engineering Management in 2009. He said that studying at CityU helped him learn how to turn research projects into applications. During his studies, he focused on research related to optical metrology, 3D sensing and stress-strain analysis. He also learned how to use laser interferometry and photogrammetry to measure objects, among many other useful scientific methods. He said all of this was very good training.

He added he appreciated the global vision of CityU’s faculty and the Department’s emphasis on practicality in its teaching and research. He said he gained a lot from his teachers’ guidance on how to apply what he learned. “Orbbec aims to use mathematical algorithms to create convenience and a better life for both industry and the general public,” Dr Huang said. “CityU’s training has been very helpful in this regard.”

After completing his doctoral degree, Dr Huang joined post-doctoral research programmes at different institutes, such as The Chinese University of Hong Kong and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in the US. After graduating from CityU four years later, he started his company.

The valuation of Orbbec has reached more than US$1 billion, and it became a “unicorn” in the short span of five years. Dr Huang believed the key to its success was finding the right direction for the development strategy of smart sensing technology, in which the company has more than 10 years of experience. Also, being situated in the Greater Bay Area, Orbbec is able to upgrade its system and becomes a pioneer in the field. 


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